McEntee: Huntsman, No Labels group wisely tout this label: bipartisan
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has always seemed like a levelheaded man, and now he's embracing the No Labels movement that wants to bust up the glacier that has encased the U.S. Congress and the White House for years.
Republican Huntsman had a cool but effective relationship with the GOP-dominated Utah Legislature during his governorship and served, for two years, as Democratic President Barack Obama's ambassador to China.
Of course, he didn't fare well in the 2012 presidential primary, which raises the side question: If it had been Huntsman instead of Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee, would Obama have won a second term?
But back to No Labels, a movement dedicated to getting Republicans, Democrats and independents around a table laden with something approaching good faith, not snarling obstructionism. It's a terrific idea, although getting there is going to be terribly difficult; just reading the news makes me recoil at the prospect of another four years of destructive stagnation.
That's why I like No Labels' proposals, particularly this one: no budget, no pay. This nation is staring at a fiscal cliff that pundits say could plunge us back into recession. Millions of people are un- or under-employed, and House and Senate leaders are playing tough guy?
Here's another one that Utah's Sen. Mike Lee ought to heed: all presidential nominations should be confirmed or rejected within 90 days. Lee iced two pivotal judicial nominations to the U.S. District Court for Utah for months, although they finally were approved. I'm sure he'd just hate that rule.
Here's another one I like, given how much time members of Congress have taken off this fall: Make them show up for work. No Labels says Congress should work on coordinated schedules with three five-day workweeks a month in Washington and one week in their home districts.
Pretty much everybody I know goes to work five days a week, minimum, with maybe a couple of weeks of vacation each year. Is this too much to ask of the people we elect and pay to do their jobs?
No, it is not.
Grover Norquist must be grated by this No Labels plank: No pledge but the Pledge of Allegiance and the oath of office. Norquist is the purveyor of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, whose signers have vowed to oppose any or all tax increases. (All four of Utah's Republican members of Congress have signed it.)
These days, however, many signatories are ditching the pledge to at least try to do something for all Americans.
No Labels has several more common-sense suggestions: allowing a bipartisan majority of members to override a leader's or committee chair's refusal to bring a bill to the floor, and a monthly "question time" for the president that would force leaders to debate and defend their ideas.
Also, an annual, televised fiscal update should be given to a joint session of Congress to ensure everyone is working off the same facts, as well as monthly gatherings to get members talking to one another.
Other suggestions are to seat a member of one party next to a person of the other party during joint sessions, and formation of a bipartisan leadership committee to talk about legislative agendas and solutions.
No Labels' last one could be impossible: Incumbents shouldn't conduct negative campaigns against sitting members of the opposing party.
What, no fear-mongering, trash-talking, mudslinging? Where's the fun in that?
The alliance of No Labels and Huntsman makes sense. As he said in endorsing No Labels' proposals: "Compromise has got to be seen as more than a treasonous thing."
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee.